Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bush claims responsibility for Katrina failures

Pinch me.

Seriously, pinch me.

From the Times:

President Bush said on Tuesday that he bore responsibility for any failures of the federal government in its response to Hurricane Katrina and suggested that he was unsure whether the country was adequately prepared for another catastrophic storm or terrorist attack.

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government, and to the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Mr. Bush said in an appearance in the East Room with President Jalal Talabani of Iraq. "I want to know what went right and what went wrong."

In response to a reporter who asked if Americans, in the wake of the hurricane, should be concerned about the government's ability to respond to another disaster or a terrorist attack, Mr. Bush said: "I want to know how to better cooperate with state and local government, to be able to answer that very question that you asked: Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm? And that's a very important question."

Throughout his nearly five years in office, Mr. Bush has resisted publicly acknowledging mistakes or shortcomings, and his willingness in this case to edge up to a buck-stops-here statement, however conditional, was evidence of how shaken his presidency has been by the political fallout from the government's handling of the storm.

It also set the stage for a White House effort to pivot from dealing with urgent rescue and relief efforts to setting out a vision of how the federal government could help rebuild devastated communities and re-establish Mr. Bush's image as a leader.

Well, good luck with that.

For now, I'm just, uh, flabbergasted. Not necessarily impressed -- he's the president, after all, he should claim responsibility and show some leadership -- but surprised that he actually stood up to acknowledge failure and to take (some of) the blame for what went wrong.

Or, no. Not surprised. This president has been beaten down. He's no longer the 9/11 president, he's the Katrina president. His approval rating is way, way down, and, finally, neither the media nor the American people nor the Democrats nor even members of his own party are allowing him a free ride. In other words, he's desperate and he needed to do something, anything. And that something, anything was something he'd never done before.

Which is a start. I suppose.

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